There are few things more frustrating than a kid that won't nap. I fully admit to losing my cool more than once when my daughter has decided to pass up her usual three hour nap and whine all day instead. No matter how much I try, we both end up frustrated, usually crying, and I end up blaming myself. But apparently, it's not always a mom's fault that her kid won't sleep. There are actually several reasons your kid won't nap that have nothing to do with you, so hop off the guilt trip and take a deep breath. (Maybe grab a cup of coffee, too.)
It's pretty wild to think that anyone would turn down a nap, right? Every day, I try to put my daughter down in a dark, cool room with a sound machine playing ocean waves, and stars projected on her ceiling. I read her a few books in a low, comforting voice, and then I snuggle her in with all of her animals and blanket. Nine times out of ten? She passes out before I get her in the bed. But sometimes, she throws a massive fit, screams bloody murder, and leaves me shell-shocked and, not going to lie, super irritated. I mean, her nap is literally the only time I get to myself all day, so when she fights it? I'm not ashamed to say I've thrown tantrums worse than her before.
But apparently it's not because I'm a terrible mother, because I've ruined her, or because I didn't teach her how to sleep. If your kid sounds like mine, there are nine reasons your kid won't nap that have nothing to do with you and can make you feel a little less crazy.
1. They Want To Be Independent
Children, especially toddlers, are known for asserting their independence according to Baby Center and that independence can influence their nap schedule. Now that your child knows they have control over certain situations, they will try to use it to say no to a nap just because they can. It's their way of trying their independence on for size and seeing what they can do.
2. They Find The World An Intriguing Place
Think about how often your kid is enamored with the world around them. Whether it's their siblings, the fun things they're doing all day, or just being outside, the world becomes an intriguing place to any child. So telling them to close their eyes and miss an hour or two of everything? Well, it sounds like torture to them. Parents noted that kids can be afraid they are going to miss something at nap time, which leads to them fighting the sleep so they can get back out there and enjoy the world, even if it's just your backyard.
3. They Are Overly Exhausted
Did they have a big day? Did they not get as much sleep as usual at bedtime? Are they just wiped out from the day? The Baby Sleep Site noted that if your child is overtired, they may fight their nap. I know, it doesn't make sense, right? If they are exhausted, then they should fall right to sleep. But apparently when a baby reaches the stage of being so tired that they are physically exhausted, stress hormones flood their bloodstream, including cortisol and adrenaline, making it even more difficult for them to calm down and get to sleep.
4. They Actually Aren't Sleepy Enough Yet
The National Sleep Foundation has some great guidelines on how much sleep a kid needs and it may surprise you. Toddlers, for example, need a recommended 11 to 14 hours of sleep. Although that can vary based on how they sleep at night, it's a nice guide to keep in mind when your kid just seems to hate the idea of sleeping. Think back to what time they woke up. If they usually nap at 1:00, but they didn't wake up until 9:00, will they be ready for sleep? If they managed to get in 13 hours of sleep at night, are they still tired enough for a nap? You can use quiet time in place of a nap if they aren't sleepy, but it may be while your kid is fighting so hard.
5. They Are Trying To Drop A Nap
Depending on your kid's age and the current amount of naps they take, they may be trying to drop one when they refuse to nap. According to Parenting, most toddlers are down to one nap, so if you notice that your baby, who was once the Sleeping Beauty of nap time, is fighting that morning nap something fierce, it may be time to let it go and give them just one nap per day.
6. Because They Are Too Stimulated In Their Bed
If your child needs a lovey to sleep with, that's one thing. But if their crib is full of toys, it may be distracting at nap time. According to The Baby Sleep Site, the state of their room can also be a problem. At bedtime, the house is dark, pretty quiet, and it's obvious that sleep time is happening. But during the day, older children may be running around, lights are on, cars are going up and down the road — it's a totally different feeling. So you may need to use blackout curtains or a sound machine to put your baby in sleep mode during the day.
7. They Need Time To Wind Down Before Naps
It's difficult to fall asleep when you've just been plucked out of your coloring activity and put in a dark room. According to Parenting, kids who are extra fussy about a nap may need more quiet time before they move into sleep, like reading a book or listening to some calming music. Baby Center also noted that keeping nap time consistent and following a routine can help ease your little one from play into sleep.
8. They Are Going Through Major Milestones
According to What to Expect, any major milestone can mess up your child's sleep, like if they are learning to crawl or walk. So when your kiddo doesn't seem to nap as well during nap time or never falls asleep, take note of any big developments they're going through. Are they spending nap time on their knees, trying to crawl? Are they babbling all afternoon to practice those talking skills? Once they master the milestone, it shouldn't disrupt their sleep too much.
9. There's Been A Change In Their Routine
It's amazing how much kids thrive on a routine and any little change can disrupt it. My own child absolutely can not handle a small nap if she hasn't had her big nap yet, so I've been known to sing loudly in the car to keep her awake if her nap isn't due for another hour. According to Parents, although your kid's schedule may differ from another child's, you should try to keep to it and not let your child fall asleep in a stroller or car as a way to replace their nap. It pretty much never works. (Trust me on this.) Traveling, being in a new place (like day care), or being out during their normal nap time can also disrupt their routine.